Planning, policies and measures for integrated rural development in Croatia


Project supported by:


Unity Through Knowledge Fund





Institutions involved:




University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, Department of Geography, Zagreb, Croatia





Countryside and Community Research Institute,

Gloucester, United Kingdom



Project period: 21st March 2011-21st July 2011

Project value: 83.058,5 kn


Project leader: Dr. Aleksandar Lukić, Assist. Professor


Project team:


Dr. John Powell, Principle Research Fellow


Project co-applicant. Provision of expertise in:

- Impact assessment methodology of legal acts in agriculture and rural development;

- Improving institutional capacity in preparation for EU programmes and funds.


Professor Malcom Mosely, Professor of Rural Community Development


Provision of expertise in local economic development in the South-West region, and economic modelling (LM3)


Dr. Paul Cortney, Reader in Rural Economy and Society


Provision of expertise in community service delivery and South-west region governance issues





Rural and periurban areas in Croatia account for 90 percent of the country area and are home to almost half of its population. Today they are facing different pressures from depopulation, urbanization, tourism development etc., resulting in a range of negative trends (such as uncontrolled development in coastal and suburban areas, unemployment and declining services in peripheral ones). Limited and often uncoordinated rural and regional development policies are failing to address these issues. The purpose of the visit is to explore the effectiveness of rural development measures implemented in the UK, including those funded through EU programmes, which also offer new and growing opportunities for Croatia. The focus will be on the southwest region of England where the host institution, the Countryside and Community Research Institute, is located. The region is highly rural with a long coastline, and is facing a range of problems, including tourism and residential development, protection of natural and cultural heritage, and issues relating to transport access, a similar set of issues to those facing Croatia. The project will provide detailed insights into a wide range of both successful and unsuccessful rural development policies, which will be of value in creating solutions for rural areas in Croatia.


Objectives and relevance of the project


The objectives of the project are following: to identify policies and measures of rural development and their effectiveness in providing solutions for a differentiated countryside; to learn about mechanisms of cooperation between research/academic institutions and local/regional government in regional and rural development; to learn about various EU research programmes concerning the dynamics of rural areas.  It is expected that by participating in activities within a specialized institute for rural research in United Kingdom and by visiting a wide range of bodies involved with rural development, the applicant will be able to gain new knowledge and skills that will be helpful in creating strategies for rural Croatia. In addition, it is expected that newly acquired knowledge and skills will contribute to: evaluation of existing measures of rural and regional development in Croatia within a broader, international framework; possible preparation of research grant application for EU programmes; preparation of project proposals for cooperation between academic institutions and local/regional government. Both Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural development and Ministry of Regional Development, Forestry and Water Management have expressed interest in the results of the proposed project.



Expected results


The main expected measurable results include publication of research paper (within one year) based on further exploration of the concept of rural typologies; an improved and enriched curricula at the Faculty of Science, Zagreb (graduate study in Regional and spatial planning, in academic year 2011-2012). We anticipate establishing cooperation between Department of Geography and CCRI and possible joint activities in the form of a research bid to explore best practice sustainable development strategies for coastal regions within the EU.






March 21st 2011

- Start of the visit to CCRI

By March 29th 2011

- Finalizing the targets in line with the objectives of the visit

By April 21st 2011

- Finalizing literature review (started in Croatia), discussions with CCRI members, establishing contacts and making appointments for field work

April 2011

- Field work (study visits and interviews in institutions relevant to research topic: policy makers, representatives of local and regional government, developmental agencies, local LEADER groups, NGO’s and charities) 

- Participation in ongoing CCRI projects and activities

- Giving a paper in regular CCRI seminar series

May 2011

- Field work (study visits and interviews in institutions relevant to research topic)

- Study visits to the University of Gloucestershire (comparison of curricula of geography, planning and rural development subjects between Department of Geography, Zagreb and visiting university)

- Preparing draft for research paper

- Participation in ongoing CCRI projects and activities

June 2011

- Finalizing draft for research paper

- Participation in ongoing CCRI projects and activities

July 21st 2011

- Developing ideas and framework for further cooperation (possible joint research bid)

- Participation in ongoing CCRI projects and activities

- End of the visit to CCRI



The most important aspect of the research visit was to identify policies and measures of rural development and their effectiveness in providing solutions for a differentiated countryside. The summary of the learning outcomes is presented while the more comprehensive overview is posted here.



In terms of population density, accessibility to bigger urban areas, economic structure and demographical processes, to mention only the few more notable examples, the majority of rural areas in England are considerably different from those in Croatia. However, we would argue that the mechanisms (institutional structure, policies, and strategies) used for planning and development in both countries is becoming increasingly similar. This is even more apparent with Croatia adjusting its governing and legal structure to the EU one and at the same time being already de facto a part of EU economy. For this reason, as a conclusion to this part of the report, we would like to put forward five successful examples of principles and practices of rural development in England that, in our opinion, could have positive transferable effect in Croatia:

1. Recognizing rural areas as assets for development rather than seeing them predominantly as problems. Although rural areas in Croatia are facing numerous problems and the recognition of their needs should be still fully acknowledged, we would argue that all too often the understanding of the contribution rural areas brings to economic and social prosperity of the region and country in general is overlooked. In order to achieve this holistic approach, all assets of rural areas should be taken in to account, e.g. human, social, environmental, economic, cultural capitals as well as their interactions and mutual dependence.


2. Rural is not a single, homogeneous entity. It takes many forms and the challenges that different areas face require intelligent, regionally targeted delivery responses. In other words, it is dangerous to generalise about the countryside, since different areas face different problems. Policies and strategies for rural planning and development, in order to be effective, should recognize that diversity. In order for strategies to take full account of local and spatial diversity, and to enable appropriate targeting of delivery within regions, it is critical that strategies are informed using data captured at the smallest, but most appropriate spatial scale. This will ensure that the rural elements of regional priorities are identified, and will assist in ensuring that rural considerations are included within mainstream policy.


3. Rural areas do not exist in vacuum: they should be viewed in their local and regional contexts, including the relationship between rural and urban areas. This also means bridging the gap between rural and regional development policies, as well as spatial land use and economic development plans and strategies.


4. In order to recognize the assets, understand the problems and take account of the diversity of rural areas, evidence based rural policy is needed. In the last decade England has introduced evidence-based approach, starting with the introduction of rural definition in 2004, which takes in accounts criteria such as population density on a very small spatial level. Typological approach has been further enhanced with numerous research conducted by different governmental bodies and agencies, e.g. Commission for Rural Communities being very important one. Their annual publication State of the countryside is very valuable example of thorough policy-oriented publication that reveals complexities of the challenges and problems facing rural England. Research concerning mountainous, sparsely populated or coastal areas is just one example of typological approach used by governmental agencies.


5. Successful governance in rural areas requires new partnerships to be built. In order to achieve sustainable development of rural areas and decrease regional inequalities, a greater range of organisations should be involved in rural policy creation and delivery at regional and local level. Building partnerships between public, private and voluntary sector and encouraging participative and community-led forms of planning have brought numerous positive results on local levels. However, devolution of powers and the shift from government to governance requires that special care is taken to ensure clarity of roles and that local authorities are empowered to understand and accept new models of planning and development.




1. Published researched paper based on further exploration of the concept of rural typologies: Lukić, A. 2012: Typology of rural and urbanized settlements in Croatia and its role in spatial planning, in: International Scientific Conference Rethinking Urbanism: proceedings book (ed. Karač, Z.), 19th May 2012., Faculty of Architecture, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, 111-114 (link)


2. Improved and enriched curricula at the Faculty of Science, University of Zagreb. The applicant has significantly altered the curricula of the course Fundamentals of Regional and Spatial Planning, taught at Graduate study in Regional and spatial planning (link).


3. The applicant has integrated the main outcomes of the research in numerous presentations concerning development of rural areas in Croatia. The special attention has been given to presenting the outcomes to the relevant public institutions, Ministries and NGO’s in Croatia. The most concrete follow-up was appointment to the Ministry of Agricultures’ Commission for evaluating the local rural development strategies (link).


4. The applicant has developed a joint bilateral project proposal concerning rural development in border regions with the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Department of Geography (“Slovene-Croatian Border Areas: Contemporary Interfaces, Responses to Transformation and Development Opportunities”). The project proposal was submitted to Croatian-Slovene Cooperation in Science and Technology, 2014-2015.


Read about Aleksandar Lukić visit to CCRI in The Briefings, publication of the host institution.